Click here to close now.

Welcome!

Cloud Security Authors: Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, John Wetherill, Ed Featherston

Related Topics: CloudExpo® Blog, JAVA IoT, Microservices Expo, Containers Expo Blog, Agile Computing, Cloud Security

CloudExpo® Blog: Article

Software as a Service (SaaS), Security and Risk Management: Part 1

A SaaS Security roadmap

As cloud computing technologies and offerings mature and evolve in its services to customers, one common consumer use will be that of the Software as a Service (SaaS) model.

My earlier articles have touched on the various models, risks, security and forensics at several levels. There is also a plethora of resources available now that end users can educate themselves with that are freely available online.

This article will focus on aspects of security that impact the SaaS environment as developed, presented or augmented by me for several Cloud Computing projects.

Before we proceed in the subject matter, a brief clarification of what I refer to as the cloud follows. Keep in mind that this term "cloud computing" is now being used to describe a broad range of services to include product descriptors that sits outside the common definition of the cloud.

For ease of reference I will refer to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) [1] definition of which the following is a part. "Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction."

Over the years since the concept of Cloud Computing evolved we have seen an accepted concept of the "Cloud Computing Stack", with its three distinct categories: Software as a Service, Platform as a Service and Infrastructure as a Service; where the IaaS Is the platform upon which PaaS rests and which is turn has SaaS rests moving up from IaaS to SaaS.

It is important to keep this basic stack in mind as the building blocks of the Cloud Computing system and not get distracted by all the "as a Service" spring up across markets as we proceed with this article.

As we move more and more services into the Cloud ecosystem, there will always be concerns regarding security. However a prescriptive combination of both preventive and detective controls at those data centers housing the IaaS ecosystem is on the path to security compliance and event mitigation. These controls, as a step toward better cloud computing security should be assessed and assured to meet industry tested security controls, as well as regulatory and policy requirements. The same format can be modified and applied up the stack to the PaaS segment.

However it is at the SaaS layer that we can perceive additional challenges with cloud security. One critical area of concern stems from the potential risk that a client's data can be exposed to as it is stored within the storage system of its SaaS provider. This risk can potentially increase in the event of the SaaS provider in turn utilizing the services of a third party IaaS provider.

While effective data center security controls are good for inside a data center, web-services or applications outside this area are a growing target for application layer type attacks. This can lead to the loss of critical to sensitive customer data as well as intellectual property and other corporate data.

A challenge for the IT security professional here is how to implement a level of protection that meets IT Security control requirements as well as ensures compliance with information security regulations, E.g. PCI-DSS in the case of transactions via web services.

In both the traditional environments and cloud services infrastructure environments, we have firewalls tweaked and configured with rulebase automation as a best practice. However in the dynamic cloud environment I believe that having to manage firewall signatures for example, amongst other issues could be challenging and counter-productive.

Essentially we would need to implement security in a layered approach which should include the network, servers, databases and coding, augmented by a system that should have a defined security process based on the SaaS environment and its functionality. This should be an additive measure to augment other monitoring and logging systems deployed to secure this environment.

This system should also have the ability to implement tools that will be able to dynamically learn the behavior of an application supported by an automated mechanism, thus removing the need for signatures in the case of firewall systems as mentioned earlier.

Within the SaaS environment we need to ensure adequate security in input validation by SaaS end users, effective user authentication and authorization, proper data segregation with security encapsulation for data in motion using SSL (3.0 or above) or TLS (1.0 above), effective software patching policies and procedures by the SaaS provider working with its software vendors as well as a key generation strategy.

(While SSL/TLS is encryption for data in motion between a Web Server and a browser is a good practice, administrators should disable weak algorithms and ciphers residing on the Web Server).

There must also be assurance for uptime or availability that is formalized in a Service Level Agreement (SLA). Impact on environments supporting the SaaS ecosystem can be attacks impacting Network Security as well as the process for Backup and Recovery.

Researchers Bhadauria and Sanyal [1] stated "Two types of servers are used by SaaS: the Main Consistence Server (MCS) and Domain Consistence Server (DCS). Cache coherence is achieved by the cooperation between MCS and DCS. In SaaS, if the MCS is damaged, or compromised, the control over the cloud environment is lost. Hence securing the MCS is of great importance."

Another concern within this ecosystem is that of cross site scripting attacks that targets Asynchronous JavaScript and XML- AJAX [2].A best practice here would be to have a policy that ensures that all calls are verified with the Web Server and Service to ensure proper authentication and authorization before allowing the request.

Moving away a bit from the technology of security in this environment, Cloud Computing and SaaS on a whole was in its infancy and in some circles denounced as a viable IT service (no names called here, but a tech company leader specializing in databases and now cloud products comes to mind).

In terms of regulations that impact web services and by extension SaaS, we can reference the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) [3] passed in 1999, Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) in 2002 [4], and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule and Security Rule of 2003[5]. All three of these regulations, although important in their relative environments (e.g. Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Intellectual Property systems (IPS) and Human Resources Systems), were not crafted to include elements of a SaaS environment then.

As a result there needs to be finite and focused addendums or improvement to these acts as was in the case of SAS 70 to SSAE 16 to meet this technological evolution.

Of importance is that, despite the security measures and attestations provided by a SaaS provider to assure a client of their security controls or compensating controls and compliance processes in place to meet regulatory and security standards; it is still the responsibility of a data owner to maintain industry regulated requirements to comply with confidentiality, integrity, non-repudiation and security control over sensitive to critical information.

So the challenge here is to ensure that a cloud client requirement (Security Policy, Strategy, Data Provenance, Operational and End-User Security) is part of the discussion with the cloud provider and most if not all requirements mirror.

The designation of data classification is part of another topic and should be the influenced by the result of risk impact and gap analysis.

As a closing point the value of vulnerability assessments and penetration tests within the SaaS environment is an important tool for an independent set of eyes to present information that a potential attacker will find and use against the SaaS. This is not only related to technology as is well known due to the rise of social engineering.

References

[1] A Survey on Security Issues in Cloud Computing www.ijcaonline.org › Archives › Volume 47 › Number 18, Rohit Bhadauria; Sugata Sanyal, 2012

[2] Jesse James Garrett (18 February 2005). "Ajax: A New Approach to Web Applications". AdaptivePath.com.

[3] http://business.ftc.gov/privacy-and-security/gramm-leach-bliley-act

[4] http://www.sec.gov/info/smallbus/404guide/intro.shtml

[5] http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/

More Stories By Jon Shende

Jon RG Shende is an executive with over 18 years of industry experience. He commenced his career, in the medical arena, then moved into the Oil and Gas environment where he was introduced to SCADA and network technologies,also becoming certified in Industrial Pump and Valve repairs. Jon gained global experience over his career working within several verticals to include pharma, medical sales and marketing services as well as within the technology services environment, eventually becoming the youngest VP of an international enterprise. He is a graduate of the University of Oxford, holds a Masters certificate in Business Administration, as well as an MSc in IT Security, specializing in Computer Crime and Forensics with a thesis on security in the Cloud. Jon, well versed with the technology startup and mid sized venture ecosystems, has contributed at the C and Senior Director level for former clients. As an IT Security Executive, Jon has experience with Virtualization,Strategy, Governance,Risk Management, Continuity and Compliance. He was an early adopter of web-services, web-based tools and successfully beta tested a remote assistance and support software for a major telecom. Within the realm of sales, marketing and business development, Jon earned commendations for turnaround strategies within the services and pharma industry. For one pharma contract he was responsibe for bringing low performing districts up to number 1 rankings for consecutive quarters; as well as outperforming quotas from 125% up to 314%. Part of this was achieved by working closely with sales and marketing teams to ensure message and product placement were on point. Professionally he is a Fellow of the BCS Chartered Institute for IT, an HITRUST Certified CSF Practitioner and holds the CITP and CRISC certifications.Jon Shende currently works as a Senior Director for a CSP. A recognised thought Leader, Jon has been invited to speak for the SANs Institute, has spoken at Cloud Expo in New York as well as sat on a panel at Cloud Expo Santa Clara, and has been an Ernst and Young CPE conference speaker. His personal blog is located at http://jonshende.blogspot.com/view/magazine "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit."

@ThingsExpo Stories
Building low-cost wearable devices can enhance the quality of our lives. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Sai Yamanoor, Embedded Software Engineer at Altschool, provided an example of putting together a small keychain within a $50 budget that educates the user about the air quality in their surroundings. He also provided examples such as building a wearable device that provides transit or recreational information. He then reviewed the resources available to build wearable devices at home including open source hardware, the raw materials required and the options available to power s...
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it's a mix of architectural styles ...
We certainly live in interesting technological times. And no more interesting than the current competing IoT standards for connectivity. Various standards bodies, approaches, and ecosystems are vying for mindshare and positioning for a competitive edge. It is clear that when the dust settles, we will have new protocols, evolved protocols, that will change the way we interact with devices and infrastructure. We will also have evolved web protocols, like HTTP/2, that will be changing the very core of our infrastructures. At the same time, we have old approaches made new again like micro-services...
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics is e...
Collecting data in the field and configuring multitudes of unique devices is a time-consuming, labor-intensive process that can stretch IT resources. Horan & Bird [H&B], Australia’s fifth-largest Solar Panel Installer, wanted to automate sensor data collection and monitoring from its solar panels and integrate the data with its business and marketing systems. After data was collected and structured, two major areas needed to be addressed: improving developer workflows and extending access to a business application to multiple users (multi-tenancy). Docker, a container technology, was used to ...
The true value of the Internet of Things (IoT) lies not just in the data, but through the services that protect the data, perform the analysis and present findings in a usable way. With many IoT elements rooted in traditional IT components, Big Data and IoT isn’t just a play for enterprise. In fact, the IoT presents SMBs with the prospect of launching entirely new activities and exploring innovative areas. CompTIA research identifies several areas where IoT is expected to have the greatest impact.
The 4th International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 17th International Cloud Expo - to be held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA - announces that its Call for Papers is open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
The Industrial Internet revolution is now underway, enabled by connected machines and billions of devices that communicate and collaborate. The massive amounts of Big Data requiring real-time analysis is flooding legacy IT systems and giving way to cloud environments that can handle the unpredictable workloads. Yet many barriers remain until we can fully realize the opportunities and benefits from the convergence of machines and devices with Big Data and the cloud, including interoperability, data security and privacy.
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
The Internet of Things is not only adding billions of sensors and billions of terabytes to the Internet. It is also forcing a fundamental change in the way we envision Information Technology. For the first time, more data is being created by devices at the edge of the Internet rather than from centralized systems. What does this mean for today's IT professional? In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will addresses this very serious issue of profound change in the industry.
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
We are reaching the end of the beginning with WebRTC, and real systems using this technology have begun to appear. One challenge that faces every WebRTC deployment (in some form or another) is identity management. For example, if you have an existing service – possibly built on a variety of different PaaS/SaaS offerings – and you want to add real-time communications you are faced with a challenge relating to user management, authentication, authorization, and validation. Service providers will want to use their existing identities, but these will have credentials already that are (hopefully) i...
All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades. With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo, June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be
Container frameworks, such as Docker, provide a variety of benefits, including density of deployment across infrastructure, convenience for application developers to push updates with low operational hand-holding, and a fairly well-defined deployment workflow that can be orchestrated. Container frameworks also enable a DevOps approach to application development by cleanly separating concerns between operations and development teams. But running multi-container, multi-server apps with containers is very hard. You have to learn five new and different technologies and best practices (libswarm, sy...
SYS-CON Events announced today that DragonGlass, an enterprise search platform, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. After eleven years of designing and building custom applications, OpenCrowd has launched DragonGlass, a cloud-based platform that enables the development of search-based applications. These are a new breed of applications that utilize a search index as their backbone for data retrieval. They can easily adapt to new data sets and provide access to both structured and unstruc...
An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and assessments, including a decade of leading incident response and digital forensics. He is co-author of t...
The Internet of Things is a misnomer. That implies that everything is on the Internet, and that simply should not be - especially for things that are blurring the line between medical devices that stimulate like a pacemaker and quantified self-sensors like a pedometer or pulse tracker. The mesh of things that we manage must be segmented into zones of trust for sensing data, transmitting data, receiving command and control administrative changes, and peer-to-peer mesh messaging. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ryan Bagnulo, Solution Architect / Software Engineer at SOA Software, focused on desi...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MetraTech, now part of Ericsson, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Ericsson is the driving force behind the Networked Society- a world leader in communications infrastructure, software and services. Some 40% of the world’s mobile traffic runs through networks Ericsson has supplied, serving more than 2.5 billion subscribers.
While great strides have been made relative to the video aspects of remote collaboration, audio technology has basically stagnated. Typically all audio is mixed to a single monaural stream and emanates from a single point, such as a speakerphone or a speaker associated with a video monitor. This leads to confusion and lack of understanding among participants especially regarding who is actually speaking. Spatial teleconferencing introduces the concept of acoustic spatial separation between conference participants in three dimensional space. This has been shown to significantly improve comprehe...
Buzzword alert: Microservices and IoT at a DevOps conference? What could possibly go wrong? In this Power Panel at DevOps Summit, moderated by Jason Bloomberg, the leading expert on architecting agility for the enterprise and president of Intellyx, panelists will peel away the buzz and discuss the important architectural principles behind implementing IoT solutions for the enterprise. As remote IoT devices and sensors become increasingly intelligent, they become part of our distributed cloud environment, and we must architect and code accordingly. At the very least, you'll have no problem fil...